Once upon a time, there was a house.
A little prairie house.
It was born in 1918, a homesteader’s dream, built to shelter a growing family from the harsh conditions of the high plains.
It’s seen a lot in the past 98 years.
Lightning strikes. Blinding snowstorms. Rattlesnake infestations. A shop fire. Tornadoes. The Blizzard of ’49. And relentless wind. Oh, the wind.
Many families came and went after the original family left. There were some who loved the little homestead, and planted lilacs and Siberian Elm trees carefully in rows behind the house to protect it from the pounding west winds. They raised sheep and cattle, and candled their eggs in the tiny hand-dug basement. Each spring a lone tulip can still be found rising from the middle of the yard where their flower beds once stood.
But as the years rolled along and the homestead continued to change hands, it slowly fell into disarray and began to lose its shine.
The fence lines crumbled. The outbuildings weathered and slowly fell apart. The windmill atop the original well was torn down. Gaping holes were dug in the yards and pastures in an effort to bury the ever-accumulating trash, and during the worst years, a small horse lived inside the house.
The shop and barn were waist-deep in junk. There was a washing machine in the back pasture. The carefully planted trees filled the back yard with broken limbs as they aged, shattered, and died. Bits of clothing, carpet, and assorted trash seemed to grow from the prairie as the wind blew the soil from the hastily filled dump holes. No one wanted to live in such a tumble-down shack, so it stood empty for several years. Until…
These crazy people walked onto the property one day.
That’s us. (Way back when.)
People tried to talk us out of buying it– they told us were were nuts. And as I look back at some of the photos, I see their point. The house was tiny, the outbuildings were trashed, the fence lines were destroyed, and it was miles and miles from the nearest grocery store. But we were blinded by potential, and couldn’t hear the naysayers whispering in our ear. Plus, we were newlyweds with a determination to live within our means and budget, and choosing the minuscule 900 square foot house meant two former-city kids could afford to become the proud owners of 67 acres. 67 glorious acres.
Since the day we signed our names on the dotted line, this house has been much more than “just a starter home” to me. As someone who prayed for and craved country living since the age of three, buying this property was the realization of a longing that is so deeply ingrained in me I can describe it as nothing less than divinely inspired. It may sound strange, but I have a soul-connection to this land.
Over the last 8 years, Prairie Husband and I have become ‘sweat equity’ personified, but it has been a labor of love. We overhauled every single inch of the place (fence lines, gardens, pastures, landscaping, tree rows, siding, roofs, outbuildings, corrals, you name it…), EXCEPT the house.
The good news was that the previous owner gutted the entire interior of the tiny house, so the inside had new sheetrock and flooring. The bad news was he had a “builder-grade” sort of style, so the house sadly lost much of its original character and ended up rather bland and uncharming (hello yellow plastic siding…). But it was clean and livable and it worked just fine for a while as we toiled away on our outside projects.
But then the babies started coming. And our home business grew. And the little 900 square foot prairie house suddenly got REALLY REALLY SMALL.
And we knew it was time for the last piece of the 100-year old homestead rebirth to fall into place. It was time to add on.
Remodeling was brutal. You can read all about our planning/demo/building process in this post. We tore off several rooms in the process, so our tiny house got even smaller for a while, and we found ourselves eating/living/schooling/relaxing in just one room for many, many months. More than once the Prairie Husband had to talk me off the ledge when I was sure I just couldn’t take the chaos for one more second. But all seasons come to an end, and hallelujah, that one is OVER.
It’s time for the big reveal today, my friends. I know many of you have been waiting a while for this, as I’ve been dropping sneak peeks on Facebook and Instagram for months. Is it entirely finished? Well, no. (Will it ever be? Probably not.) But I’m not going to make you wait any longer.
So without further adieu, may I present to you: the neglected and forgotten little prairie house made new.
The Story of Our Prairie House (in pictures)
A shot from summer 2008, right after we purchased the property. The canvas camp chair lends a super classy touch– don’t you think? 😉
Spring 2015– we tore off the dining room and “laundry closet” on the back of the house and prepared to dig the giant hole in the back where the new addition would go.
When we ripped off the lovely plastic yellow siding, we discovered many of the boards underneath were rotted and the insulation was almost non-existent. So we had to take a detour and replace boards and install insulated panels before we could proceed with the new siding.
But this is what we look like now:
We still have a tiny bit of siding to finish on that one side, and I need to paint one more white door, but it’s quite the transformation, I think.
We agonized over siding choices for months, but we finally went with cedar siding with a steel wainscot. The wainscoting will naturally rust over time and I love the industrial/rustic feel it brings. Plus I can’t hurt it with the weed whacker.
The same tree– approximately 7 years later. (And no, trees do NOT grow fast here in Wyoming…)
Old Dining/New Laundry Room:
This was our old dining room, aka the dining “closet”. We added the window in 2014, but even then, it was still an awkwardly small room. The ceilings were short and crooked, and even a small dining table and chair set would barely fit. Entertaining guests was super-duper cozy. Ahem.
In order for the foundation of the new addition to fit on to the back of the house, we had to complete rip off this room. However, we rebuilt it on the original footprint (on the new foundation, with straight walls and ceilings…) moved the door, and turned it into the new laundry room.
Hard to believe it’s the same space, huh?
I went a little nuts with quirky additions to the laundry room, so I wrote a entire post with all the juicy details. You can find all of that (along with the name of my “heifer head”) in my farmhouse laundry room post.
This was the kitchen right after we bought the place. Builder-grade oak cabinets, no dishwasher, and extremely limited counter space. (By the way– my decorating style has changed considerably since then… thank goodness.)
In 2012, I got the wild idea to paint those builder-grade cabinets white (and we’d also installed an island and dishwasher and moved the sink by then, too).
I loved the white look for quite a while– it felt airy and crisp. And then I had Prairie Boy and suddenly my white cabinets weren’t so white anymore (the kid is pretty much a walking ball of stickiness), and the cheap-o cabinets began to fall apart, too.
Thankfully, the kitchen was right on the edge of where the old house met the new house, so it needed to be redone anyway. Once the remodel was “dried-in”, we ripped apart the kitchen too. Fun times.
As is common with old houses, the kitchen floor was pretty saggy. So saggy, in fact, that we likely could not have laid down the new wood floor without major issues. Thankfully, Prairie Husband is extremely handy and was able to jack up the house and build in extra support in the ancient basement underneath. It was an adventure, to say the least. But now our new floor is as level as you can expect a 98-year old house to be.
I’m pretty sure there’s some rule somewhere that says farmhouses *must* have white painted cabinets, but I’ve never been very good at following rules, so I opted for rustic hickory instead (partly because I’d already done the white thing, and partly because I couldn’t take the dirt anymore…)
Speaking of decorating styles, I have no idea what mine is… If I had to put a label on it, I’d call it eclectic-rustic-farmhouse-vintage-western-industrial. How’s that for some classification? While I like some aspects of the all-white farmhouse look, I still crave a lot of rich, natural tones and texture. I love rusty metal, leather, cowhide, richly grained wood, and natural elements. As much as I love to look at the crisp white farmhouses on Pinterest, I knew using that much white in my decor just wouldn’t fit me. Plus, I wanted my house to have a uniquely Wyoming feel. (More on that in a bit).
I wouldn’t have gotten this pot filler above the stove if it hadn’t been for Prairie Husband, but I’m sure glad he talked me into it– I love this thing. Super handy for filling up canning pots, too.
My first choice for counter tops was butcher block, but considering how messy I am in the kitchen, I decided it would be wiser to go with a material that doesn’t require quite as much maintenance. We opted for a grey quartz with a “fractured” edge, and I am loving it so far. It almost has a concrete look, and it’s super tough.
I requested the open shelving specifically as a place to store some of my dry ingredients and home-canned food. I’m not really into “knick-knacks”, but I love using functional items as decoration.
The Living Room:
Our old living room was painfully awkward, and it was one of the main reasons we needed to build the addition. It was a tiny box with awkward furniture placement, which made entertaining guests near impossible. (See the pics of it below) We decided to turn it into an office space instead, and build a spacious living room in the addition.
Hardwood floors were a must for our new living area, as I have dealt with carpet for FAR too long. We knew we wanted an open room with high ceilings and lots of natural light and seating for guests. I wanted this room in particular to have a bold, vintage Wyoming look, and I love how we were able to incorporate elements of our style into some of the trim work to make that happen.
I especially love the window trim– we distressed 2×6 pine boards with a draw knife, hammers, and chains, and then stained them a dark brown. Prairie Husband added the big black bolts for an extra rustic touch, and the result is stunning. No curtains for these babies.
I really wanted a taller baseboard trim (to mimic what I’ve seen in older homes) so we used 2×6 pine again, but this time with the top edge routered and stained to match the windows and doors as well.
Prairie Husband custom-built the sliding barn doors to hide the TV. I know, I’m pretty spoiled.
We moved our wood stove from the old living room into this new room. But instead of the faux stone we used previously, we lined the stove surround with leftover steel from the exterior wainscoting, and use grey pavers for the base.
I love this wall– the door was salvaged from our barn when we redid it, the antelope mount was from one of the Prairie Husband’s hunts, and the rope is a real rawhide reata that was my great-grandfathers. I love decor with a story.
And then we have the windmill… If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve probably already seen the windmill, and I’ll probably forever be known as the crazy-windmill-lady because of it, but I don’t care. It’s absolute perfection. It was generously “donated” from the junk pile of one of the ranches down the road.
It hangs over the stairwell wall that leads down into the basement. The half-wall is covered with leftover windbreak wood we had hanging around in our trash pile.
The Old Living Room/Office
This was our tiny living room, circa 2008. (Ain’t that maroon chair a beaut?) The carpet looked decent back them, but it didn’t look so great when we pulled it out 8 years later. Let me offer an unsolicited bit of advice: if you’re considering putting carpet in your homestead house– don’t.
Little did I know the original hardwood floors lay waiting for me under that speckled Berber…
This was a day or two after we made our hardwood floor discovery, prior to repainting. It definitely wasn’t all pretty and shiny when we initially pulled up the carpet, but I knew there had to be something worth saving under the scuffs and scratches and dried paint.
Turns out, I was right.
A trip to town to get a drum sander, a coat of stain, and two coats of sealer later, we were in business! If only these floors could talk…
We couldn’t find any desks we liked, so Prairie Husband (have I mentioned how handy he is?) built a custom wall desk made from rough cut windbreak wood planks. He planed it, joined it, sanded it, and rubbed in several layers of tung oil until it looked like this:
Pretty snazzy, eh?
I love the industrial-look of pipe, so the supports are fashioned out of regular ol’ pipe, painted black. And there’s open shelving to match, of course.
I’ve had a home business since 2011, and this is the first time I’ve ever had an actual office space.
The decor and details in here are still a work-in-progress, but it’s coming together. And I love not having my laptop and planner in the middle of my kitchen workspace…
New Master Suite
Our old master bedroom was a typical, tiny, old-house bedroom– nothing special– so we gave our old room to the Prairie Kids, and build a new master suite off the side of the new living room.
It’s spacious and airy–which is a big improvement from our other room.
Originally we were going to go with a basic shower insert in the master bathroom, but it just looked too…. modern. So, we chose a weathered wood-look tile for the tub and shower. The only problem with that was Prairie Husband had to build the entire shower base and surround from scratch. Did I mention he’s pretty handy? If I had to do that, there would be water leaking through the floor into the basement as we speak, but he did an amazing job.
The pebble tile completes the natural look. (This photo is before we attached the glass door). It kinda cracks me up how much work we went through to make it look like you’re showering outside behind an old wooden windbreak, but I think it’s fabulous. 😉
I love the old-fashioned look of the copper vessel sinks, and we also scrounged in our scrap pile to find old bits of weathered wood to complete the mirror, towel rack, and tile trim.
This lilac bush sits right next to the homestead’s original well and cistern; the old, broken pump jack is still nestled beneath its branches. I walk by it every day on the way to the barn, and each year when it blooms in the spring, I stick my face deep into the purple flowers, inhale, and give a silent nod to the generations of homesteaders who loved this little chunk of land before we did. I sure hope they like what we’ve done with the place.
- Hardwood Floors: Handscraped Tobacco Road Acacia by Lumber Liquidators (this is the solid wood, not laminate)
- Barn Door Hardware: artisanhardware.com
- Windmill and Scottish Highlander Pillow Covers: society6.com
- Main Paint Color: Westhighland White by Sherwin Williams
- Office Paint Color: Lovely Bluff by Valspar
- Trim/Door Stain: Jacobean by Minwax
- Kitchen Pendant Lights: Barn Light Electric
- Dining Room Chandelier: Decorsteals.com
- Dining Room Table & Chairs: American Furniture Warehouse
- Industrial-Look Ceiling Fans: Home Depot
- Hammered Copper Farmhouse Sink: Sinkology
- Copper Vessel Sinks in Bathroom: Sinkology